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By the second night of this two-night stand in the Iron City, mud is clinging to the facing of the second deck. Mud obscures EXIT signs, and mud showers delight those fans fortunate enough to be seated behind the starting line, which is where I sit, contemplating a souvenir cup o' sludge.
At a recent Chicago monster mash, a radio station blindfolded three lucky contestants and had them wallow in the mud on their stomachs, groping for buried rubber balls that they could then exchange for cash and prizes.
Alas, there will be none of that in Pittsburgh. As showtime approaches, DeWire is explaining to mud racers and monster drivers that the lights will be out during the dramatic introductions, after which "the house lights will come up, we'll play the national anthem—and there will be some pyro during that...."
Some pyro? When the recorded anthem reaches the part about the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, the joint is filled with enough smoke from flares and explosives to choke a camel. When the pyro smoke later mixes with the monster fumes, the result is a rather effective emetic.
"They have a lot of weird things to go with the trucks at these shows," says the bemused Chandler, who did indeed create a monster. "The weirder the thing is, the better people seem to like it."
Some of the curiosities, both human and mechanical, that appear at monster truck shows:
•"Robosaurus," says Jim Kersten, a genial publicist for SRO and the USHRA. "Robosaurus cats cars."
Robosaurus is indeed a car-nivore. Two stories tall, Robosaurus is a mechanical steel monster. Not a monster truck but an actual monster. Robosaurus will seize an old rust bucket in its massive steel pincer mitts—hands that look like the Marquis de Sade's fireplace implements—pop the jalopy into its steel-trap yap, chew it up and spit it out and finally belch a deep fireball of satisfaction.
"That dinosaur," Bargo says of Robosaurus. "I've seen it pick up an old Buick, take a bite out of it, tear sheet metal off it—a door, the roof—blow fire into it and throw the thing, on fire, to the ground. I've been maybe 80 feet away and felt the heat like I was standing too close to a barbecue. I'm told the dinosaur has 7,000 pounds of crush power in its hands and 5,000 pounds of crush power in its jaws."
•"We have Vorian," continues Kersten, like a car salesman moving around the showroom. "Vorian is a dragster that transforms itself into a two-story-tall, fire-breathing robot."